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It's Self-Scouting Time With Ravens' Three Tenors

October 22, 2013

OWINGS MILLS -- Mirror, mirror on the wall, why can't this team play better ball?

For all intents and purposes, that's the question any coaching staff asks itself during a bye week, even one that works for a team with a superlative record. 

That's something the Ravens don't have at this point. 

At 3-4, the defending Super Bowl champions are worse than .500 on the bye for only the fifth time in team history (1996, 1999, 2002, 2005) -- they missed the playoffs on the other four occasions -- and the first time under current head coach John Harbaugh. Not only that, no titleholder has been in such desperate straits since the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Harbaugh said earlier this week that although he is letting the players go after the second of two practice sessions, he is not sure of the schedule the coaches will follow as they prepare for their annual round of self-scouting.

Self-scouting simply involves the coaches looking at tape and seeing how other teams would attack them in all three phases of the game.

And, just as Harbaugh did, the three coordinators have taken a cumulative approach to the team's woes.

Ravens 2013: Coordinators (Jerry Rosburg, Jim Caldwell, Dean Pees)
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

"We'll look at everything," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "We'll look at every single detail. We'll try to determine what [schemes] other teams are playing against us and why.

"There's lots of things that we're not doing very well. Running the ball better will be a main focus."

During the team's 1-3 pre-bye stretch, the team's run defense has been lacking as well.

A Pittsburgh team whose run game had struggled even more than Baltimore's managed to gain 141 rushing yards. Green Bay had several big runs during the first and fourth quarters, but few, if any, during the game's middle portion. Buffalo got the only rushing touchdown allowed against the Ravens all season.

What is most disturbing about that is the fact that younger running backs such as Packers rookie Eddie Lacy and Pittsburgh first-year runner Le'Veon Bell did significant damage, mostly by using the Ravens' speed against them.

"We probably got off blocks too quickly," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "On the second play of the game, we had some guys stuffed in the hole and were a little too impatient. Bell's a patient runner, and he found a crease, which he did three or four times through the course of the game.

"… The [amount of yardage allowed] was not good, and we've got to get that corrected if we're going to be a good defense. We can't have people running the ball on us."

On the special teams front, 10 penalties and numerous errors of omission -- such as the failure to cover the sideline on Emmanuel Sanders' long kickoff return, which set up Pittsburgh's game-winning field goal -- can usually be chalked up to the heavy turnover every roster faces and the fact that newer players are required to contribute in the kicking and coverage facets.

But the glaring lack of special-teams veterans such as Sean Considine and Brendon Ayanbadejo has been an especially big drawback.

"Every year, teams take on a whole different look," special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg said. "We don't have Sean and we don't have Brendon. Every year, a team has to reload.

"This year is no different."

Punter Sam Koch has had a statistically down year, with a pair of 26-yard punts in Miami and a partially blocked kick against the Packers dragging his net average to less than 40 yards, so field position is another factor that hasn't always favored the Ravens.

"It's my responsibility," Rosburg said. "The guys that we have playing have to be ready to play."

And, just as Harbaugh and the Three Tenors do, they have to be able to look themselves in the mirror.